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Australian company builds RAS quarantine nursery for Chinese buyer


September 21, 2015
By John Mosig

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Radaqua designs

While Asia is justifiably seen as an aquaculture powerhouse, this qualification is characteristically driven more by output than by the sorts of cost efficiencies that underwrite aquaculture production in the developed world.

With the rapid growth of economic activity in the region – particularly in China – and the ballooning population, the need to improve productivity has become a driving force. Moreover, the accompanying pressure these two changes have placed on the environment, along with the insidious and unpredictable advance of climate change, have focused attention on the need to apply more science to production methods than in the past.

In the developed world, the demands placed on the aquatic environment by other stakeholders are one limitation, but more insidious and one that encompasses the whole globe, is the pressure that climate change and extreme weather events are making on open-water farming. Business leaders and planners are realizing that to increase and secure future aquaculture production, the gains will have to come from the successful adoption and integration of compact, climate-proof, RAS farms into existing open-pond and cage systems.

Australian know-how

The Australian company, Radaqua Pty Ltd, is well aware of this situation and has a long history in the field. Based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the company has constructed over 30 production systems and hatcheries in Australia and overseas. They have also acted as consultants to government bodies, educational institutions and research facilities.

Recently completed projects range from a 500t re-circulating aquaculture system (RAS) in the Peoples Republic of China, to the delivery of a sea-grass research facility with tidal simulation to Central Queensland University, through to the ‘drought proofing’ of a beef-cattle property. Drought proofing was achieved by installing a freshwater recirculation facility on the existing cattle property. Not only does the RAS provide an alternate revenue stream to supplement the existing beef operation, it also delivers a nutrient-rich source of irrigation water with which to ensure high quality fodder, even in times of harshest drought.

Philosophy behind the development

Radaqua’s development Manager, Wil Conn, said that previous growth trends within the wider Asian aquaculture industry have been towards expanding existing grow-out facilities that are extensive in nature, thereby increasing dependency on sourcing growing numbers of juveniles from third parties. Such farms are predominantly family-owned and operated. These traditional extensive systems are inherently inefficient in their use of water and land when examined from a productivity perspective. Low productivity is compounded by owner’s and manager’s reluctance to invest the capital needed to build intensive culture systems.

“Market driven professional investors and joint venture companies,” Conn said, “are playing an increasing role in the growth of the industry, and they are looking at commercial KPIs [Key Performance Indicators] such as return on capital, cost of production, market share, and risk factors such as business interruption. Many large scale projects are using RASs to achieve their desired production outcomes and taking a whole-of-industry approach, in contrast to the established but fragmented farming sectors.”

Reflecting these strongly held views, Radaqua is building an integrated quarantine nursery for Quant Ying (Fujian) Technology Co. in Fujian Provence, China. The facility is the first stage of an eventual 5,000 tonne RAS system. Initially, the quarantine facility will condition an intake of fry every six weeks. Biosecurity and health protocols have been developed to ensure that quarantined stocks are disease-free before stocking into a fully operational 500t RAS growout facility. This fully integrated farming facility is wholly owned by the Quan Ying Technology Co.

Long term vision

A long term vision associated with the Chinese company is in supplying immunized SPF (Specific Pathogen Free) seedstock to the wider industry in the region, which is increasingly viewing recirculation systems as a viable technology in support existing farming systems. Within the next year a broodstock conditioning facility and hatchery will be built on the site as part of what will ultimately be a fully integrated farming project.

Several species will be grown

Four species are being targeted initially:

  • Coral trout (Lectropomus leopardus);
  • Orange spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides);
  • Pearl grouper – a cross between a giant grouper male (E. lanceolatus) and a brown-marbled grouper female (E. fuscoguttatus); and
  • Black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon).

 A feature of the system – built as two independent halves – is its ability to be operated as either a freshwater or a marine system, or anything in between. This will give managers the widest possible range of species and husbandry protocols. At present the plan is for 65,000 finfish juveniles to be brought into the system every seven weeks; spend six weeks in quarantine and then transferred to juvenile growout. One week ‘fallow’ where cleaning, disinfection, etc will take place and then stocking out for growout.

The Quan Ying project has a 2015 target of 3.2 million juveniles, made up mostly (2.6M) of prawns. But by 2019 their target will be 32 million seed-stock annually, consisting of prawns (26M), coral trout (3,75M), pearl grouper 1,5M), and orange spotted grouper (750k).

As ambitious as this may seem at first glance, it is an indication of a huge step up in thinking and application from the open-cage and pond- systems that have been the mainstay of the industry since the 1980s; a system that has lifted farm production from 10% of total seafood consumption to over 50%.

For more information contact Wil Conn at: wil@radaqua.com.au

John Mosig


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